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Welfare Reform on the Web (December 2009): Welfare state - overseas

The handbook of European welfare systems

K. Schubert, S. Hegelich and U. Bazant (editors)

London: Routledge, 2009

This book provides the first comprehensive information and detailed data on the welfare systems of all 27 EU member states and offers an introduction and basis for comparative welfare research. The introductory chapter summarizes the actual debate about welfare states and welfare regimes, gives an overview of current welfare research and analyses the main recent developments necessitating a new focus on European Welfare Systems. The 27 chapters on the welfare systems of the member states are written on the basis of a common structure by experts from the individual states. Additional chapters analyse the current social and welfare policies of the EU and provide a theoretical reflection arguing for the idea of politically limited pluralism in European welfare politics.

How much redistribution do welfare states achieve? The role of cash transfers and household taxes

M. Forster and P. Whiteford

CESifo DICE Report, 3/2009, p. 34-41

Two major objectives of all welfare states is to redistribute across the lifecycle and to redistribute between rich and poor. All OECD countries pursue both objectives, although the emphasis given to each of them varies significantly between countries. This analysis shows that:

  • In general, countries with lower levels of transfer spending have a more progressive structure for both benefits and taxes
  • The tax and benefit systems in all OECD countries reduce income inequality and poverty, with the impact being greater in the Nordic countries and lower in the Asian and English-speaking countries
  • The redistributive effect of the welfare state is generally larger for public cash benefits than for household taxes
  • During the past decade, the reduction in income inequality achieved by the combined effect of household taxes and public cash transfers declined in around half of OECD countries.

One welfare state emerging? Convergence versus divergence in 16 Western countries

P. Achterberg and M. Yerkes

Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, vol. 25, 2009, p. 189-201

This article seeks to investigate the validity of the convergence thesis, which assumes that welfare states are becoming increasingly similar because the more generous universal welfare states are adopting policies of retrenchment and neo-liberalisation. Using data on the popularity of neo-liberal ideology, welfare state expenditure and the generosity of this spending for 16 Western countries, the authors demonstrate that there is no general trend towards neo-liberalisation and retrenchment. However, there is evidence that more generous, universal welfare states are becoming liberalised, while liberal welfare states are expanding, causing convergence in the middle.

Policy punctuation in mature welfare states

C. Jensen

Journal of Public Policy, vol.29, 2009, p. 287-303

Welfare state reform continues to fascinate scholars around the world. Following the new institutionalist approach of Pierson, much work has been done exploring path-dependent reforms, ie incremental change. Far less is known about abrupt changes. This article uses the theory of punctuated equilibrium to argue that politics is characterised by long periods of stability followed by sudden bursts of dramatic change. It shows how the theory can be used to explain sudden large scale reforms to welfare states in 18 Western countries, 1971-2002

Social citizenship, solidarity and welfare in regionalised and plurinational states

M. Keating

Citizenship Studies, vol. 13, 2009, p. 501-513

There has been a strong assumption in the literature that the modern welfare state rests upon a unified, territorial nation-state. The welfare state confers on citizens a set of social rights which provide a basis for solidarity. However economic management and market regulation are increasingly escaping the control of the nation-state and resting with supranational institutions such as the EU. States have also widely decentralised and regions have emerged as institutions, economic spaces, political spaces and spaces of culture and identity. Some fear that these developments pose a threat to the welfare state by weakening social citizenship and provoking a race to the bottom. However, the empirical evidence suggests that welfare states are not being dismantled and that social solidarity is being rebuilt at multiple levels.

Urbanisation and poverty

International Development Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09: HC 511)

The last five years have seen rapid urbanisation, almost all of it within developing countries, yet the Department for International Development (DFID)-along with other donors-has downgraded its support for urban development over this period. The report recommends that The Department needs to focus its efforts to address urban poverty in Africa which is the world's fastest urbanising region and has the highest proportion of slum dwellers. Without a new and comprehensive approach to urban development in Africa, a number of cities could face a humanitarian crisis in as little as five years' time. Addressing urban poverty offers the opportunity to tackle wider development issues such as: unemployment and crime; social exclusion; population growth; and climate change and the environment. A specific focus on urban poverty should be re-established within DFID, united around a new strategy document. This could be achieved largely by reconfiguring, rather than supplementing, existing staffing, especially if DFID were to make greater use of external expertise and research. By recalibrating its own approach, DFID will have greater capability to play a leading role in helping to build political will within the international community to pull millions of people out of urban poverty.

Work-family reconciliation policies without equal opportunities? The case of Austria

M. Auer and H. Welte

Community, Work and Family, vol. 12, 2009, p. 389-407

The key work-family policies in Austria are the parental leave scheme in combination with the Childcare Benefit payment, the entitlement of one parent to work part-time, and a moderate and regionally diverse expansion of the childcare infrastructure. However, the impacts of these policies are highly contested. It is argued that these policies offer affirmative recognition of maternal care and the limited employment of mothers, but provide little support for transformative recognition, particularly in terms of increasing the social status of working mothers and fathers as carers. Austrian work-family policies also do little to redistribute incomes and career opportunities from men to women and childcare from women to men. Instead, they grant only limited freedom to choose between parental duties and employment, and the financial support they offer is concentrated on early childhood.

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